|Manny Ramírez provided one of the few jolts of offense for the Red Sox yesterday, parking his 16th home run in the seventh. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)|
HOUSTON -Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury has hit his first prolonged speed bump since arriving in the big leagues, raising some question whether the sprained left wrist he incurred June 5 may be a lingering issue.
Ellsbury hit safely in his first six games back after hurting the wrist while making a diving catch against the Rays in center field. But since a three-hit game in Cincinnati June 15, he has cooled significantly. In 12 games since, Ellsbury is batting just .191 (9 for 47), had drawn just two walks, driven in one run, and stolen one base (while being caught once). After sitting out the first game here Friday night, Ellsbury tripled and scored Saturday and had a single and walk in five plate appearances yesterday.
Ellsbury has drawn 30 walks, the fifth-highest total on the team (J.D. Drew leads with 45).
"I think pitchers are making a concerted effort to get ahead in counts," manager Terry Francona said, "because if they walk him, it's a run. The one thing you don't want to do is walk him, because it's always a run."
Second to none
A young boy was spotted in the stands wearing a "Pedroia the Destroyah" T-shirt, and why not? Dustin Pedroia continues as the majors' hottest hitter, his 2-for-5 afternoon making his average over the last 12 games .528 (28 for 53). The second baseman singled in his first at-bat yesterday, hit his eighth home run in his next at-bat while leading off the third, and finished the series with nine hits in 14 at-bats (.643). Almost as hot, Mike Lowell, who went 1 for 4 yesterday, has raised his average from .270 to .295 by going 14 for 28 in his last seven games.
Pedroia is one of four Sox players who continue to lead the voting at their respective positions for the All-Star Game, and Drew has climbed within striking distance of a spot in the starting outfield, according to voting totals released by MLB yesterday. Drew ranked sixth, 263,000 votes behind Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, who is third, well behind Manny Ramírez of the Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers.
First baseman Kevin Youkilis and DH David Ortiz also lead, while Jason Varitek is fewer than 145,000 votes behind Joe Mauer of the Twins at catcher. Lowell ranks second at third base, but Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees has almost twice as many votes.
Voting has ended at the 30 big league parks, but on-line balloting continues at mlb.com until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Fans can pick nine starters in the AL, eight in the NL (no DH). The pitchers and reserves - a total of 22 for the AL, 23 for the NL - will be selected through a combination of voting by the players, who cast their ballots Friday, and selections by the managers (Francona and Colorado's Clint Hurdle). The 32d player on each roster will be selected from an on-line ballot of five players in each league.
Francona said Curt Schilling, who underwent shoulder surgery last Monday, will rehabilitate with team physical therapist Scott Waugh at Waugh's clinic, not at Fenway Park. Francona said he has not discussed with Schilling whether he intends to spend any time at the park with the team . . . Ortiz continues to hit off a tee - "at about 60 to 70 percent" by Francona's estimation - and the manager is making no predictions on how his progression will go . . . Ramírez is good to play left field against the Rays, Francona reiterated yesterday, though he is leaning toward having him DH in at least one of the three games . . . Mike Timlin, who breezed through an 11-pitch, three-up, three-down inning Saturday for Pawtucket, will pitch again tonight or tomorrow, according to Francona . . . In the wake of the Angels' Jered Weaver being pulled with a no-hitter in progress, Saturday night, a game which ended with the Dodgers still hitless but 1-0 winners, Francona was asked if he'd ever lifted a pitcher in similar circumstances. "I think so," he said, mentioning a righthander named Scott Ruffcorn when he was with the Phillies in 1997. Francona's memory was accurate: He lifted Ruffcorn with one out in the sixth against the Braves after a walk, wild pitch, and hit batsman. The Phillies led at the time, 5-0. They would lose, 6-5, as the Braves scored six times that inning. Ruffcorn pitched in 30 games over five years with the White Sox and Phillies with a lifetime record of 0-8 . . . Prior to Saturday's 11-10 loss, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Sox had won 80 of their last 81 games on the road in which they had scored 10 runs or more. The exception was a 13-10 loss in Baltimore Sept. 8, 2003. The Sox had won 36 straight from that date until losing Saturday.